Derek Jeter was the Yankees’ leadoff man in 137 of his 155 starts last season, but manager Joe Girardi announced today that Jeter will hit second in the Opening Day lineup, with Brett Gardner replacing him in the leadoff spot.
Anything involving Jeter inevitably leads to big headlines, but ultimately the switch is pretty meaningless. Leadoff hitters end up with slightly more plate appearances than No. 2 hitters, while No. 2 hitters end up with slightly more RBI opportunities than leadoff hitters.
Either way, both spots involve coming to the plate more often than everyone else in the lineup and setting the table for the sluggers. And while Jeter was primarily a leadoff man last season he’s actually hit second far more often throughout his career, logging 56 percent of his total plate appearances in the No. 2 spot. And his numbers are identical, with a .313 batting average and .839 OPS leading off compared to a .314 batting average and .840 OPS hitting second.
To me this move is more about Gardner getting a promotion from the bottom of the lineup to the top of the lineup following a very strong season that included a lofty .383 on-base percentage and 47 steals. If the Yankees feel like he’s capable of repeating those numbers the leadoff spot makes all kinds of sense, and since Jeter has more power than Gardner it’s also natural to bat him second.
One negative aspect of Jeter hitting second is that he’ll get more opportunities to ground into double plays after ranking fifth in the league with 22 last season despite batting at least once per game with no one on base, but Gardner tries so many steals (and is fast enough even when he doesn’t take off for second base) that the impact could be minimal.
Veteran utilityman Reid Brignac is in camp with the Astros on a minor league deal. The 31-year-old is close to being done as a major leaguer as he owns a career .219/.264/.309 triple-slash line across parts of nine seasons. In an effort to prolong his big league career, Brignac is now attempting to become a switch-hitter, MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart reports.
I’m going to try it out this year. It was something that I just thought long and hard about and I was like, ‘OK, I’m going to try and see how it goes.’ I used to switch-hit when I was younger off and on, nothing consistent. I could always handle the bat right-handed. I play golf right-handed, so I do a lot of things that way that feel natural.
I just want to get to the point where I’m trying to stay in games, not get pinch-hit for, not starting games because a lefty is starting. … That could help me stay in the games longer. I’m trying to add a new element. I play multiple positions and now if I can switch hit and be consistent at it, then that can only help me.
As Brignac mentions, he’s also verstile. He’s a shortstop by trade, but has also logged plenty of innings at second base and third base, and has occasionally played corner outfield.
There aren’t any examples — at least that I can think of — where players began switch-hitting late in their careers and actually succeeding in the major leagues. As the saying goes, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. But here’s hoping Brignac bucks the trend.
Angels shortstop Andrelton Simmons fell off the map a bit last year due to a combination of the Angels’ mediocrity, Simmons’ lack of offense, and a month-plus of missed action due to a torn ligament in his left thumb.
Simmons is still as good and as smart as ever on defense. That was on full display Monday when the Angels hosted the Padres for an afternoon spring exhibition.
With a runner on first base and nobody out in the top of the second inning, Carlos Asuaje grounded a 2-0 J.C. Ramirez fastball to right field. The runner, Hunter Renfroe, advanced to third base. Meanwhile, Asuaje wandered a little too far off the first base bag. Simmons cut off the throw to first base, spun around and fired to Luis Valbuena at first base. Valbuena swiped the tag on Asuaje for the first out of the inning.